Department of Health and Social Care
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Heavy drinkers try to burn off booze with exercise

Heavy drinkers try to burn off booze with exercise

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 25 November 2009

Know Your Limits campaign warns of hidden damage from alcohol

More than 3.8 million* adults in England are misguidedly trying to burn off the booze with exercise, according to new research published today.

A YouGov survey, on behalf of the Know Your Limits campaign shows that 19 per cent of adults in England who exercise regularly and drink alcohol admit to taking exercise or playing sport in order to “make up” for having drunk a lot of alcohol in the previous few days.

Worryingly, this is even more prevalent among heavy drinkers: the survey shows one in five (20 per cent) English adults are drinking more than double the NHS recommended limits and, of those who also exercise, over a quarter (28 per cent) admit doing so to make up for their drinking.

This compares to just 10 per cent of people who exercise and drink at 'lower risk' - those who do not regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day for men, and 2-3 units a day for women.

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron said:

“Everyone knows that regularly taking part in physical activity is important for maintaining good health.

“But the truth is, if you have a big night at the pub, you’re not going to compensate with a workout the following day. Damage from regularly drinking too much can slowly creep up and you won't see it until it's too late.

“The Government is helping people to understand how much they are drinking through our Know Your Limits campaign.”

GP and broadcaster Dr Carol Cooper is supporting the Know Your Limits campaign, and is worried that people may think going for a run or a swim can simply undo any damage caused by over-indulgence in alcohol.

She said: “Regular exercise is vital for staying healthy, so on the one hand it is encouraging that so many heavy drinkers recognise their drinking habits aren't good for them, and that they want to make up for it by taking exercise.

“But people need to be aware that regularly drinking double the recommended limits comes with health risks that can't simply be burnt off down the gym, in the pool, or on the football pitch.”

Men who regularly drink more than eight units a day (about three pints of lager) and women who regularly drink more than six units a day (about two large glasses of wine) are considered by the NHS to be at 'higher risk' of harming their health. Both are more than five times more likely than non-drinkers to suffer mouth cancer and more than three times more likely to have a stroke.

The Know Your Limits campaign has teamed up with the fitness industry this month to raise awareness among gym-goers about the impact drinking too much can have on their exercise goals and long-term health. Nearly 500 gyms and leisure centres across England are taking part in a month-long campaign, including one of the UK’s largest fitness chains, Fitness First, which has been out on the streets encouraging people to fill out drink diaries.

Fitness First UK’s National Fitness Manager, Derek Crawford said:

“We understand that people like to socialise and have a drink, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However it makes sense to monitor the unit consumption over a period of time because if the consumption exceeds the recommended units, this may have an adverse affect on a person’s fitness performance not to mention their overall health and wellbeing.”

Over ten million adults in England regularly exceed the recommended daily limits. Regular drinkers keen to cut back on their intake and keep an eye on their drinking can visit, where an interactive units calculator can help you keep track of how much you’re really drinking.

Notes to Editors

1. For media enquiries only please contact the Department of Health newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.

2. Spokespeople, including Dr Carol Cooper, are available for interview.

3. Know Your Limits is a joint Department of Health and Home Office initiative, launched in October 2006. The campaign encourages people to drink responsibly and to recognise what their limits are when it comes to alcohol. For more information, visit

4. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,421 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th - 18th November 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).

*3.8 million =19% of 20.1 million English adults who drink and exercise. YouGov survey shows 59% of English drinkers exercise regularly. 20.1m = 59% of 34m English adults who drink. YouGov survey shows 86% of English adults drink. 34m = 86% of 39.54m English adults (population source: ONS)

5. To remain at 'lower risk' of harming your health, the NHS advises women do not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day, and men do not regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day. ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or most days of the week. Higher risk drinkers are men consuming over 8 units a day, or 50 units a week, and women consuming over 6 units a day, or 35 units a week.


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221

Digital Asset Management Enabling Speedier, More Informed Policing...